CDNOW leaves void in online music buying


Published: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 6, 2003 at 12:40 a.m.
The past year has been one of major changes in the online world. December brought one of the most significant changes with the merger of leading online music store CDNOW (www.cdnow.com) with Web megaseller Amazon (www.amazon.com). Music fans who haven't visited CDNOW recently will likely be disappointed in the changes they'll find.
CDNOW had become the de facto standard for online music retailers, offering a huge array of both popular and obscure artists and releases. CDNOW's resources were extensive enough to provide answers to nearly any current music question, and lead the curious to discover much more. Two of CDNOW's best features were its inclusion of rare and imported recordings from big-name artists, supplemented by a strong database listing nearly every recording an artist had appeared on, and in what role. Browsing this information could often lead music fans to discover otherwise unknown appearances as guest artists or producers on other CDs. Import recordings in many cases showcased otherwise unavailable material. Album reviews and artist biographies were common, and samples were provided of most tracks in both Windows Media and Real Audio formats.
The CDNOW/Amazon merger has left most of the artist information and obscure recordings in the virtual dustbin. A check of the current site finds most recordings priced at full retail, with discounts largely reserved for the most popular new releases, mirroring most conventional music retailers. Smaller sellers with both new and used product also remain available via the Amazon site, providing an unusual kind of internal price competition. Instead of samples of all songs from most recordings, CDNOW/Amazon usually provides only the first few tracks. If you're looking for new choices, here are some of the best alternatives:
Tower Records: (www.towerrecords.com). The long-time music retailer maintains a major Web site. Tower can be a good place to hunt import recordings, and provides a decent inventory of current releases.
Half.com: (www.half.com). eBay's Half.com (acquired in July 2000) provides a large selection of new and used CDs, many from private sellers and small retailers. Bargain hunters can often find like-new CDs here for half of current retail prices (including shipping). eBay (www.ebay.com) also carries hundreds of thousands of recordings at any given time. Set up a Saved Search to be notified of items as they are newly listed.
Artist Direct: (www.artistdirect.com). This site may stand to gain the most from CDNOW's changes. Artist Direct features a good database of searchable information, direct online CD ordering, music samples and paid music downloads. You can also find information on artists appearing on most recordings, biographies and message boards.
CD Connection: (www.cdconnection.com). This site features a broader selection of hard-to-find titles than most, many at discounted prices.
CD Universe: (www.cduniverse.com). This site provides online ordering and an excellent selection of song samples via the Muze database.
Spun: (www.spun.com). Spun features both new and used CDs.
Second Spin: (www.secondspin.com). Second Spin provides used CDs from most musical genres.
Tom Meek is a computer and media consultant whose column appears each Monday. He can be reached at webgator@bellsouth.net or via www.tvccs.com. His columns also are available at www.gainesvillesun.com.

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